The sixth annual free Veterans Day community breakfast was held Monday, Nov. 11, at Stowe Community Church.
The event is staffed by Stowe High School student volunteers, plus a few adult volunteers who help guide the students.
Organized by Barbara Allaire, Stefi Clymer and Terrie Wehse, the breakfast offers an opportunity for military veterans to come together and share their experiences with each other and with a younger generation.
“It is really the kids doing the work, from setup to serving and bussing, to breaking it all down in the end,” Wehse said.
Donations come from many local businesses, including Trapp Family Lodge, Cabot, Cold Hollow Cider, Mansfield Dairy, Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea, the Xpress, the UPS Store, Stowe Area Association, local syrup producers and more.
Wehse also acknowledged kitchen chiefs Matt and Leslie Anderson, and Doren Dolan, who stayed “extra extra” to help get the kitchen back to form.
“The event is really a gift from and to our community,” Wehse said.”
“We feel this to be a very special way of thanking our men and women and their families for their service, and those who are still serving, so that we can live as a free nation,” Allaire wrote to the Stowe Reporter.
Wehse said students and community members reflect on the breakfast with heartfelt gratitude, respect and even surprise as they speak with the veterans.
Attendance averages at around 100 to 125 veterans attending the breakfast each year; Clymer said this year’s roster included men and women who served the United States from World War II to the present day, including service in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the current theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our high school students are astonished,” Wehse said, as veterans recount their experiences: spending 72 days under the sea in a submarine. Secret missions. Not even finishing basic training before being shipped off to Europe in World War II.
“Losing friends in battle, and being just 19 years old. Fighting a war which many of your countrymen do not believe in,” Wehse recounted.
“The details go on and on, and our students then realize these things all happened to these people in this room, eating breakfast. Living history.”
And as for veterans, “they are impressed with our Stowe teenagers,” Wehse said, from students’ engagement and interest, “asking questions and having some textbook knowledge to dig out of their history lessons to relate to our veterans’ reality,” as well as serving up a delicious breakfast.
“But mostly, it is these multigenerational discussions and bonds being formed which touches everyone in the room. Even fellow community members are hearing war stories for the first time out of people they have known for decades,” Wehse said.
“This event gives our vets a special stage to mention a part of their life about which many people do not ask. Many people stay and linger. It is wonderful. This is community!”